Freedom from Bitterness

image.pngBitterness.  What an unpleasant state to live in.  For years I was entangled in the darkness of bitterness as it seemed that everyone else had the very things I so desired but were not a part of my present reality.  In God’s kindness,  He didn’t allow me to live in that tangled web of bitterness forever and through a series of circumstances and lessons that confronted the very core of my beliefs about God & His love for me, He gave me great freedom from it.  As painful as that time was, I’m so thankful that God broke me of it, because no life stage in this broken world is free of comparison, bitterness, envy & jealousy.

This week, I sat in my room, upset and battling this very thing.  My current set of circumstances leaves me feeling that dangerous root of bitterness again rising up within my heart.  But this time, I’m desperate to fight it, and to have God clean out the ugliness more quickly and deeply than before.

Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” I so desperately desire some characteristics to be true of me – peace, holiness, seeing the Lord, the grace of God. But where do I feel my heart leaning?  Towards the opposite: bitterness, trouble, defilement. 

I don’t want to be wrapped up in that bitterness, as I once was.  But it’s not as simple as just telling myself to “stop it!” and being freed. In this battle against bitterness – and I truly do mean battle – I must fight this head-on, and, truthfully, only through the work of the Holy Spirit empowering me.

Here are some practical steps I am taking to battle this bitterness from taking root I wanted to share with those of you who may be battling the same thing:

  1. Prayer. I must recognize that I am fully dependent on God to do the primary work of heart change in my life.  What does this look like? You may have heard of “spiritual breathing” in Cru.  It’s a simple way to think of living out the Christian life in a moment by moment way. First, I exhale – I admit my sin, my feelings, my desires, my longings & that I can’t do it without the Holy Sprit – and then I inhale – I remember that I am forgiven because of Jesus’ work on the cross & I yield to the Holy Spirit to take back the throne of my heart and empower me.
  2. Where is my identity?  In Because He Loves Me by Elise Fitzpatrick, she writes,  “Rather than being inebriated with God’s mercy, grace, and Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]… we’re reeling from the belief that the most important factor in any given day is our success or comfort.  Life has become ‘about’ us and God’s love in the gospel has taken a seat in the back of the bus, behind coveted invitations, the respect of friends, NFL championships, and full stomachs. We mistakenly think that these things are measures of God’s love for us because we’ve forgotten about the Lamb who takes away sins.” How powerful! Am I living out my identity based on who God is & what He’s done for me? No? It’s not enough to just “stop it!” – I need to go back to point one! I must recognize the disparity, and say, “Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief!”
  3. Love like Jesus.  This was an encouragement in the midst of my bitterness from Lindsay, who discipled me at the time.  Who holds up the better end of the relationship deal between me & God? Definitely not me.  So, how can I, with the help of the Holy Spirit, truly love my friends and continue to love them even when I felt like I was overlooked or like they had such better lives than me, and through my heartache?  What does it look like to be gracious, merciful, honest, resolve conflict, etc. so that bitterness cannot stick to my heart as it grows in love for others, rather than suffocating the life out of it?  This is a great challenge, but it’s humility (or “thinking of ourselves less” as Tim Keller writes) that brings me true perspective on love!
  4. Foster gratitude & generosity in my days.  If there is a command that seems harder to me when I am in a set of undesired circumstances than rejoicing with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15), I’ve yet to find it.  How can I rejoice when I want the thing they have? Do I really  want to be that girl who cannot rejoice with other people? No way! But I can be sad about my circumstances while still rejoicing for others’.  The two are not mutually exclusive!  I must foster a heart of gratitude for what God has given me and a heart of generosity towards others.  My friends have wept with me and loved me through the hardest moments of my life recently.  How much more can I rejoice with them by being generous – with my time, my resources, my heart, my listening ear, my love?  Giving to those who are in circumstances I dream of being in allows me to forget that I want to be bitter about their lives, because I am moving towards them in love.  This isn’t something I can do on my own, either.  I often must take a minute to be honest with others & the Lord about my disappointment, heartache, and sadness – God does not ask me to ignore the fact that I am hurting – and then I ask the Holy Spirit to empower me to love others, to care for them, and to be generous and grateful as is fit for the situation.  And surely God does it.  He loves to answer those prayers.

These aren’t some sort of magical steps in a formula that will quickly fix all of your heart problems in regards towards bitterness.  Only God can do that.  But I’m here to say that there is freedom to be found from bitterness, and a fight to be had for that freedom.

IMG_0710I wonder what would it look like if we, as women who believe that God loves us, took time to really put in the hard work of yielding our lives to the Lord and turning from bitterness, jealousy, comparison, and envy.  How would our communities, our families, our hearts change?

“Let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, looking to Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” – Hebrews 12:1

I truly believe that this, the gospel, changes everything.  Holy Spirit, work in us that we might better reflect you & that we may find freedom from things like bitterness which so easily take root in our hearts! We love you. Thank you for loving us.

A new day, a new summer//Brooke

We are back, friends! We will have weekly posts from Tidewater & Richmond staff and students all summer long!  We pray it will encourage you as you walk by faith this summer.  Big shout out to MEG WALKER for giving our blog a face lift!

One area I want to focus on this sumPicTapGo-Image (10)mer is praising God no matter what. no matter the circumstance. on the mundane days and on the happy, happy days. As you know life is hard, complex, anxiety ridden, busting with joy and surprise too but God is near and good and for us even on the hard days.  And I want to remember Him.

One thing I started doing last month was “30 days of Adoration.” One of my favorite authors(Sara Hagerty) put together this free printable & it helped be slow down and think about one attribute of God each day and praise Him for it and reflect on how I had seen Him at work in my life in that particular way.  It was really good for my soul.  I’m excited to continue it this month.

I think it’s so important for us to think about God.  To think rightly about Him. There’s SO MUCH pulling for our attention that we can forget or distort who God really is.

The famous quote by A.W. Tozer is SO true, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Todays focus of adoration is– The One Whose Very Person Dispells Fear! And the scripture that she linked to it: “They[the disciples] had rowed 3 or 4 miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat.  They were terrified, BUT HE called out to them, Don’t be afraid. I AM HERE.”   Praise God! Don’t we need to remember that today?  That He is here and we don’t have to be afraid.

Let us remember God this summer and celebrate His character and nearness. He is good!  Let’s not miss an opportunity to know Him more.

//to go deeper into this topic check out this article//

 

June-2016-Adoration-8x10

 

 

Do you know you’re beautiful? {Maggie}

            

  Today I stood in front of the mirror after having changed my outfit 4 times and just let out an exasperated sigh. I didn’t like what I saw. My shirt didn’t hang right, my shorts were ugly, and I was breaking out. My hair was not cooperating, and I wished I were thinner, tanner, and taller. Then I would be more beautiful…right? As those thoughts were going through my head I realized how often I compare myself to other people. Scrolling through my newsfeed I see pictures roll by of my beautiful friends who have a guy on their arm, and are looking real good at the beach…and then I look at me and think…why can’t I have that? Why can’t I be the one super dedicated to cross-fit or the latest workout regimen? Why am I not the one getting married in 100 days or whatever the latest countdown that day is? Why am I not traveling the world with my imaginary new hot boyfriend? Why is literally “everyone” getting married???
Because.

            God has me where I am for a purpose. For the purpose of bringing me closer to Him and Him getting to reveal his glory in a way that will deepen my love and affection for Him. I am beautiful. God created us all to be beautiful children of God. He doesn’t want me to be constantly comparing my story to others. If I’m constantly waiting for the next best thing to happen to me, I’m missing it. God is here. Now. And wants me. I don’t have to have a certain body type, or hair color to be beautiful. God creates each and every one of us in His image in a unique and wonderful way. He doesn’t want us looking around wondering why in the world we are where we are. He doesn’t want us to figure out each nitty-gritty detail in his plan for us so we can try hard to make it happen. He is in control. He’s got this. Trust Him. He loves all of us and sees us as beautiful. He knows what’s best for us and wants us to glorify Him in our waiting. Patience is not just waiting, but it’s our attitude while we wait. Where is our heart in this waiting period?

            We as women, I think, struggle a lot with self-image. We are never happy with the way we look or what we have. We can’t stand to live in the present; we are focused on planning our perfect Pinterest wedding when in fact, God wants to use us for his purposes to reach the world with His truth. Ladies. We are princesses of the most high King. There could never be a more beautiful you. God created you the way he did with purpose. A greater purpose then getting 80+ likes on a new profile picture, and having the perfect outfit or “finally” being in a relationship. Don’t settle. I’m not saying God doesn’t want us to feel beautiful, or wear ugly clothes all the time. It’s not that he doesn’t want or have someone for us. My friend mentioned how someone from her church decided she wasn’t going to date for at least a year, and then two months later…she had a boyfriend. I jokingly said, “hey I’ll do that too.” Why? I wanted to be in a relationship…Wrong reason to take a vow of singleness.  I needed to do a heart check. Who’s approval am I seeking here?
Galatians 1:10 smacks me with some hard truth…
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 
        
         Yeesh. I should be trying to glorify God, not myself when I get ready for the day or figuring out what to post to Instagram…Like Meg said in her last blog, God gave us our status as beloved adopted children of His. So let’s start seeing ourselves that way. Be confident in who you are in Christ. He loves you. Just the way you are.
“ I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. ” Psalm 139:14
 “Because He delights in me, He saved me.” Psalm 18:19 
This video might be a little cheesy…but I think it shows how what God sees as beautiful, and the world’s definition of beautiful are completely different.